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Love, again by Doris Lessing: Book Review

May 28, 2010

What most surprised me about Doris Lessing’s novel, Love Again, is that despite all the thoughtful dissection of the ‘love’ state, Lessing does not seem too worried about the distinction between physical attraction and emotional love. Isn’t that what all of us mortals tear our hairs out brooding about — is it love (!) or is it mere physical attraction injecting “love-like” hormones into our brains (and genitals)? Not Doris Lessing.

Love, Again’s protagnist — Sarah Durham — is a 60 yr old producer of a leading fringe theater group. She falls in love after many decades with two younger men. The novel centers around a play about a historical figure named Julie Varion—a beautiful woman who lived an unconventional life in the forests of south France. During the course of her live, she loves and writes music which has been recently discovered in the novel — and hence the musical romantic play.

The novel has a knack for describing theater artists and the charmed euphoria of a successful production. But Sarah’s hyper insecurity about her age and sexuality become leaden and even contrived as men fall in love with her right and left. Constantly, she is unpleasantly surprised by her arousal and ashamed of her sexual frustration. There is also the thick shame she feels about her sexual awakening. Having such feelings simply does not jive with confidence and independence.

Moreover, Sarah is far more interested in herself and her new state, than she is of her love objects. But Lessing is far too good a writer to simply create self-centered characters. They must also be self-aware!

I think I am really ill. I am sick — with love. I know this has nothing to do with Henry or that other boy.    

One of the reasons that Sarah believes she is in love is because she claims to be suffering immensely from her feelings. What makes this difficult to believe is all the enviable joy found in Sarah’s life that she obviously also takes pleasure in. In fact, I stumbled over the sentences about Durham’s mental anguish — wishing I could pick them up and ask, “What are you doing here?”

—– Okay, Cut! —–

A far more competent review here.

It’s true, the descriptions of Sarah’s depression are hyper acute and chilling. There is this one passage that stayed with me where she talks about how one can ignore an ache in your arm, you leg… but the heart? An ache in the heart is just tough to ignore. It’s so true.

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